Mukudzei Chingwere-Herald Reporter
Practical subjects will be commercialised in schools through fostering joint ventures with private investors and this will upgrade the education system and start allowing a flow of profits that can help parents cope with school fees.
Cabinet last week approved a two-pronged teaching approach aimed at profit-making and academic excellence, with schools now expected to venture into commercial activity for practical subjects, said Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
“The Ministry (of Primary and Secondary Education) will promote commercial ventures in schools through use of land and space available to schools,” she said.
“The public schools will engage in commercial activities through fostering joint ventures with private investors.
“A business development unit will be established at the Ministry’s head office to supervise, monitor and evaluate the implementation of the schools commercial venture project.”
The Ministry is mandated to provide equitable, quality, inclusive, relevant and competence-driven primary, secondary and non-formal education, as well as improving governance and access to quality, equitable and inclusive education.
“It also seeks to increase uptake and application of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM),” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“Other areas of focus entail improving research, development and innovation; vocational skills and entrepreneurship among the youth and citizens and access to affordable quality education.”
Speaking yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Ambassador Cain Mathema explained the intricate details of the approved commercial activity, and confirmed that the message was being carried down to school heads to start the model immediately.
“Proceeds of these commercial ventures will be used to fund programmes at schools and relieve parents the burden of paying fees,” he said.
“School commercial ventures should enable schools to employ full time appropriate managers and employees paid by proceeds from the ventures. Some schools are already doing this.
“Therefore, pupils should not be used as sources of cheap labour, as the Ministry observes the declaration of rights enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, on freedom from slavery.
“Pupils will be involved in applied learning as we shift to participatory and learner centred and interactive methodologies. It is, therefore, of paramount importance to turn all public schools into economic centres through commercial ventures that use local resources.
“Where appropriate each school should enter into joint ventures with private investors. Such endeavours will lead to free education which the Government is supposed to offer according to chapter 1 part 27 of the Constitution. Once we offer free education, it means President Mnangagwa would have relieved each family of the burden of paying for schools fees.”
Minister Mathema said the model was not far-fetched.
He said Binga was renowned for guinea fowl, and France together with countries like China are the biggest markets for guinea fowl.
Minister Mathema said the French Ambassador had long committed to sourcing markets in his country.
The agriculture sector is expected to be a key enabler in line with Government policies, which are designed to transform the country into an upper middle income society by 2030, and Ambassador Mathema said all public schools have enough land to venture into commercial agriculture.
“This is the vision, which is in line with the Government’s efforts of achieving an upper middle income economy by 2030,” he said.
“Subjects like metal work and woodwork are part of the manufacturing sector which needs to be done commercially in schools. For example, schools in Bulawayo alone have the capacity to revive the industrial hub in Bulawayo.”
Countries like Japan who had famous industries renowned for training children in technical skills in subjects like engineering start from a tender age, he said.
“Some schools are manufacturing personal protective equipment against Covid-19,” said Ambassador Mathema.
“If some schools are sewing their own uniforms, I do not see why it cannot be done profitably.”
National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president Mr Arthur Maposa said schools had always envisaged a profit-making model, but the vision had been curtailed by lack of funding.
“This is a very good model and we are willing to adopt it,” he said. “The whole idea really is education with production. That is where the world is going.”
National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH) president Mrs Cynthia Khumalo said if the model for commercial activity was supported by the Government, schools could implement it successfully.